The Lex Files | Ep. 1 | Dr. Anna Schwabe & the Gene Flow of Cannabis
Jun 2, 2020
Cellular & Molecular Biologist and Cannabis Expert, Dr. Anna Schwabe, talks about variations within cannabis strains, epigenetics, identifying strains through their smell, and why it takes training to draw proper pictures of pot plants.
Behold the beauty of her botanical illustrations at her new and improved website: https://www.annaschwabe.com/
Genetic tools weed out misconceptions of strain reliability in Cannabis sativa: Implications for a budding industry
Research grade marijuana supplied by the National Institute on Drug Abuse is genetically divergent from commercially available Cannabis
Dr. Anna Schwabe We’re not doing science for ourselves. We’re doing this for you. When you have a question and you want it answered, the perfect person to do that is a scientist.
Various Quotes “This is our humble hemp patch.”
“5000 years of medical cannabis use.”
“We’re learning about other cannabinoids.”
“Marijuana is growing in every state in the Union.”
Host – Lex Pelger I’m Lex Pelger, Director of Education at CV Sciences, and this is The Lex Files.
Lex Pelger No two cannabis plants are exactly the same. Even when they have the same genotype. The research of Dr. Anna Schwabe is all about finding out why genetically identical plants in the same laboratory settings, will produce a different level of THC, CBD, and other compounds. She’s a prolific cellular and molecular biologist with a long diverse resume. She joins us today to discuss genotypes, phenotypes, epigenetics, how to identify cannabis cultivars by their smell, and why it takes so much training to draw proper pictures of pot plants. Please welcome today’s guest, Dr. Anna Schwabe.
Lex Pelger Hello everybody. Welcome to today’s show and I’m very pleased to be here with Dr. Anna Schwabe. Thanks for joining us.
Dr. Anna Schwabe Hi. It’s nice to be here.
Lex Pelger Before we get into all of your work as a scientist, I was curious; What got you onto this path and all the different fields of science that you’re familiar with? What did you want to be when you were little?
Dr. Anna Schwabe I distinctly remember telling my mom when I was little that when I grew up, I wanted to be a biker chick with half pink hair and half green hair. She says that I got half of that right.
Lex Pelger I’m looking at a head full of pink hair right now.
Dr. Anna Schwabe But I don’t know what I wanted to be when I was little. I’ve always enjoyed, inquiring, answering questions, doing puzzles, things like that. So, I guess that’s why science is cool. I started out in anatomy and physiology thinking that I might want to be a vet someday. I did five years at CSU [Colorado State University] with anatomy and physiology thinking I was going to go to vet school. But my grades weren’t good enough and it turns out I really like animals. To be a vet, you’ve got to do some pretty big soul searching because, putting down animals and stuff like that, I don’t think I’d be able to do that very well. I switched gears into cellular and molecular biology and that’s where I’ve been.
Lex Pelger How did that path start for you? Because on your site you list, A and P [anatomy and physiology], molecular biology, stats [statistics], evolution, speciation, genetics, and science communication illustration. What did your early schooling look like to get you into all these different fields?
Dr. Anna Schwabe I started with anatomy and physiology of animals and have 5 years of background in that. Then, I took a hiatus from school after 5 years. I didn’t actually graduate from CSU with my Bachelor’s. I messed around a lot and that’s the weird thing. When I came back to school I started in cellular and molecular biology and I had to—I took another anatomy [class]—I have so much anatomy… Then when I came to graduate school, as part of graduate school we have to teach. I know a lot about anatomy and physiology and a lot people don’t want to teach that because it’s—a lot. I ended up teaching anatomy and physiology, but I was doing plant studies and people are [wondering], “why is somebody who does plants, teaching anatomy and physiology of humans?” It turns out, a lot of plant people teach anatomy and physiology. I don’t know why that is. But that’s why I have so much anatomy and physiology. That’s my teaching background. As part of the doctoral degree that we have at UNC [University of Northern Colorado], all doctoral degrees at UNC are education degrees. I actually have a degree in biological education. The research portion of my—that I wrote my dissertation on was actually another thing. Science students in particular—biology students—we all have our own research. But the Ph.D. actual degree is in biological education. We have to learn how to teach, teach how to learn, do course development. I taught conservation biology as part of my degree. Full-on teaching, research, and doing all kinds of stuff.
Lex Pelger Wow. Is it difficult to wear those two different hats? Because, in some ways, science, it seems silly because these people are great researchers and spend all their time in the labs, often aren’t the best people to be teaching.
Dr. Anna Schwabe I totally get that… I know a lot of Ph.D. students at UNC feel like it’s a lot of work to be doing research and teaching and then doing the education degree as well because we have to take a lot of classes for that. I didn’t find it particularly hard. I’m pretty good at time management and I didn’t find it particularly hard. And I think I’m a pretty good teacher.
Lex Pelger I suspect, from what I’ve seen online. You’ll see some links in the episode notes [see links above.]
Dr. Anna Schwabe Some people are not very good [teachers]—or they just don’t care. It’s part of something that we have to do to get through the degree… I don’t want to be a teacher. I’ve never wanted to be a teacher. But I do know how to teach so I guess if something came up, I would have that to fall back on. But every day I’m teaching somebody something just through talking about my research.
Lex Pelger Speaking of your research, can you tell us about what your dissertation was on and what it took to actually get that approved when cannabis is still so verboten in so many ways?
Dr. Anna Schwabe It was funny because after I worked at the Denver Botanic Gardens and my position finished, I had a really hard time finding a job. I went to an interview at one of the chemical labs down in Denver. I interviewed with them and they thought I was great, but they ended up hiring somebody over me that had a Ph.D. And I [thought], “Well, I can get a Ph.D.” I had some really interesting ideas and I approached my advisor that I had for my for my master’s work. [I] brought this idea to him: “Cannabis. We could do this.” He said, “No… I don’t want to be that guy.” Every time I saw him, I [said], “C’mon. You know you want to do it.” And it was actually his wife that talked him into it. She said, “Somebody has to be that guy. Why don’t you be that guy?” It’s nice because UNC is a small enough school that the dean… everybody was behind me saying, “Yeah, we can totally do that. You just can’t have it on campus.” I [said], “Well, I don’t have to have it on campus. I can do partial extractions off-campus, then do all the analysis and PCR [polymerase chain reaction] on campus.” They said, “As long as you’re just working with DNA and you don’t bring any material that could be smoked, you can do this.” [My advisor] finally said yes and it started out as a project that was going to be looking at hops. As a side note, I was going to do cannabis, since they’re related. That flipped 180 degrees to all cannabis, no hops, which was funny. The whole premise for my dissertation changed and evolved and even though I’m graduated, I’m still working on one of the projects that I had developed. The first idea was that first paper that I put out with the variation within strains. From there it just took off and I did all kinds of other stuff.
Lex Pelger One of the talks that you gave on sources of variation in cannabis, you called, “Joint forces”.
Dr. Anna Schwabe I did.
Lex Pelger Which I thought was good. That was really good. A lot of these weed jokes, I don’t like. But that one is too perfect. Can you talk about genotypes versus chemotypes and how this all gets affected by the epigenetics?
Dr. Anna Schwabe There’s the big equation that we have when we look at organisms. When you look an organism, whatever they look like on the outside, and that includes terpene and cannabinoid production—we can measure those—that’s all part of the phenotype. That’s things that you can look at, you can say, “That’s what that is.” “That’s green.” “That has flowers.” “That smells like this.” That’s all phenotype. The physical, observational characteristics of an organism. The phenotype is a product of the genotype, which is the DNA, plus the environment. They’ve done twin studies where two twins, that have identical genotypes, end up being quite different in adulthood due to different lifestyles. When you take that genotype portion out of the equation, if you have exact genotypes, you can make the assumption that any differences in their physical appearance or the physical characteristics is a product of the environment because you know you started out with identical genotypes. With cannabis and the “Joint Forces”, I looked at taking two identical plants, genotyping them to make sure they’re identical, and then looking at their phenotypes. Chemotype is a perfect thing to look at because if you don’t have the plant to look at, if you just go to the dispensary and you buy a sample, you’ve got the bud, which has a chemotype. You can look at the chemotype. If they’re all genetically identical, they should all have the same chemotype. But we know that’s not true. That means there’s some environmental things feeding into this. If they’re from different dispensaries, presumably these identical plants have been grown under different conditions because every master grower has their little tips, watering regimes, and nutrients… So of course, they’re going to be a little bit different. However, if you’ve got identical plants—clones—and you’re growing all of them under the same conditions in your grow facility or incubators and there’s no environmental differences and they still turn out different? How does that happen? I’m looking into the epigenome, which is not the actual DNA that stays the same. There [are] marks on top of that DNA that can be added or removed allowing the plant or the organism to express genetic traits differently. That can lead to a new phenotype, even though you’ve got the same genotype and the same environmental conditions. I think some of the epigenetic changes that occur could be due to stress. Stress from cutting, from cloning, from re-growing. But nobody has really done the work yet so it’s an interesting thing to think about.
Lex Pelger One of the things I always think is fascinating about epigenetics is that we used to call that junk DNA. And it turns out to be the control DNA for the genes that are actually turned on. In humans, if you hurt somebody or someone hurts themselves from smoking, genes get permanently turned off. You might still have those genes, but since they’re not working, you might as well not have them. It’s interesting that this same thing is happening with plants. It seems like it’s more unknown and harder to measure.
Dr. Anna Schwabe With plants—I mean, we—people—if we’re in a stressful environmental condition, like if it’s too hot, we can just get up and leave. A plant can’t do that. If there’s something in the environment that is stressing a plant out, they have to do something in order to adapt very quickly. The general adaptation through mutation events and all the things that lead to speciation, that happens really slowly over time. If you’re a plant that has to adapt quickly, then you’ve got to have something else in your toolbox to make that happen. Plants are actually pretty good at using epigenetic pathways… It’s not like they’re thinking, “oh, I should upregulate this heat gene.” They just throw it out there. Whoever survives through that stressful condition, they can pass on to their next generation those epigenetic marks so that their offspring can also survive through what they would assume to be an ongoing difficult condition. The cool thing about plants and epigenetics is, it’s something that’s heritable but it’s not as slow of a process as adaptation is.
Lex Pelger Speaking of evolution, what’s your opinion on the evolution of the cannabinoids themselves? It seems like there’s a lot of different theories out there. Do you have a favorite on why the plant started making these expensive fatty molecules?
Dr. Anna Schwabe That’s a good question. I’ve heard some of the people talk and try to figure out what cannabinoids are, why they’re present, that almost all organisms—except insects—have an endocannabinoid system. Why is it that insects don’t have it and humans do? There’s that co-evolution theory where the plant evolved along with humans and we have this—they help us, and we help them get around the world to different [places]. Plants, they can’t move themselves. It might be some sort of symbiosis situation where we help them, they help us. But I don’t really know. As far as what the plant is doing, it’s mostly been controlled by us and the way we’ve been selecting our favorites for thousands of years. One of our favorite things about cannabis is THC [delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol]. Maybe there’s so much THC in there because that’s what we’ve chosen, not necessarily that it’s beneficial for the plant to have THC. Same thing with terpenes. We smell it, “ooo, I like the way that one smells. I’ll keep that one.” “Ooo, that smells like stinky feet. Get rid of that one.” I think also the terpenes—although some people say that it’s to keep away insects or for some sort of defense—I think that we’ve been messing with it so long, really the whole thing is just us. We’ve selected for all of these things.
Lex Pelger Some of your really cool research to read about is trying to figure out what we’ve done to the genes of this plant, especially in the recreational market of the United States, which is a weird hybrid of different regions of cannabis. With your work, how would you fill in this gap in genetic testing and the many wrong names for marijuana strains out there?
Dr. Anna Schwabe There’s a lot to unpack there… There’s genetics as a whole field. A lot of people are looking for the genes that control for this, or help the plant express this, because they want to have bigger flowers or higher THC content. I don’t actually look at genes. I look at the “junk DNA”, the stuff that’s in between the genes that doesn’t actually help the plant code for anything—its neutral genetic markers. You can get a better idea of the history of the plant (who’s related to who), without bringing in these things that have been purposely selected for… an artificial signal coming through. I can get a better look at what the plant is actually doing. Using those neutral genetic markers, we can test for: are they identical? The answer is either “yes” or “no.” If they’re not identical, it’s not always possible to say what it is [or] to identify it as, “that’s not Blue Dream. That’s actually Sour Diesel.” What I can say is, “That’s not Blue Dream. That’s not the same as all these others, it’s different.” How is it different? I don’t know, it just is. It’s not what these other things are… With the names, we do have some misnaming or misidentification. Perhaps in dispensaries they’re putting another name on something that isn’t selling to make it move quicker off the shelves. I think we can use genetics to look at that a little bit more and give more consistency to the industry. I like the strain names. If I was a breeder, I would be bummed if they went to a naming system [such as], “This is G5496 and it has terpene content A2.” I’d [think], “What? I don’t want to talk about my babies like that.” I think the naming is cool. People inherently need to categorize things and we need to have a way to talk about things. If I say, “Blue Dream,” you know exactly what I’m talking about. You know there might be a variation among dispensaries and that Blue Dream out in California might not be the same as Colorado, but you know what I’m talking about, at least. If I came up to you and I said, “… I found this really awesome strain, G5942, with the terpene profile A2N!” You’d [think], “I have no idea how to process that information.” I think the strain names are important just for communication purposes. Even the whole sativa/indica thing where scientists [argue], “No, we haven’t found it. There’s no support for it.” But people, customers, consumers [know] there is a difference. We can tell the difference. What that difference is might be different to you than it is to me. You might know, “I hate sativas. They make me feel weird.” I might [say], “I love sativas. They’re my favorite.” We still know what that sativa means to us. Whether or not science has found it yet, doesn’t mean it’s not there. They just haven’t figured it out yet. I think this is all really important stuff for people to be able to communicate with each other. That’s what I think about that. That was the short answer.
Lex Pelger It’s a good one.
Lex Pelger For years I’ve been writing about cannabis and the endocannabinoid system. I gather people’s stories from around the world. I learned about the long human history with hemp and I interviewed scientists about the importance of our own cannabinoids. But at the time, the positive effects of CBD [cannabidiol] were only starting to dawn on me. It took me seeing the impact that CBD-rich hemp extracts made on the health of my cousin and the comfort it gave to some of my elderly relatives—especially the ones who were always against pot. Since then, the many stories I’ve heard from people using CBD, made me a believer in its potential. That makes me proud to now be working at CV Sciences, because I know, firsthand, how hard they work to product the finest quality CBD-rich hemp supplements. I’m proud because I know we lead the industry in research and education. Proud because I know we make excellent CBD oil from true agricultural hemp. I’m most proud because I know our products make a difference in people’s lives. At www.pluscbdoil.com, use the coupon code LEXFILES for 20% off to see for yourself.
Lex Pelger The next question then continues with terminology, with cultivar vs. strain. As a plant geneticist, how do you stand on this? That strain isn’t a typical botanical word?
Dr. Anna Schwabe
Well, cannabis isn’t a typical botanical plant… When we develop a new tomato, we do lots of backcrossing and inbreeding to breed out all of those traits that we don’t want in our brand-new tomato strain or cultivar. When we go to register that new tomato and we’re going to call it, “Anna’s delight”, that is a stable seed line. You’ll get the same individuals anytime you pick up a packet of “Anna’s delight” from Lowe’s, you can expect to get those kind of tomatoes. With cannabis, we don’t really do a whole lot of sexual [breeding]. We don’t go to seed. We don’t grow from seed that often and the seeds that are available are not that stable. There are growers and breeders who take the time and the work to backcross and inbreed for 12 to 14 generations to get that stable line, but most of the strains-and I’m going to call them strains-out there are a one-off cross of two things that were hybrids themselves. So we’ve got hybrids of hybrids of hybrids… I feel like the term, cultivar, although it’s more botanically correct, can’t necessarily be applied to cannabis types because… they don’t come from the same sort of place. Does that make sense? It’s just crossing things that have been crossed and a lot of them are fleeting. You grow up 100 seeds, you pick the ones you like—that’s the mother plant. Once that mother plant is gone, you’re either doing clones of clones—which can be a little tricky—or once that mother dies, that strain [is] gone. It’s no longer available. It’s done. That doesn’t happen with cultivars… I’m going to keep using the word strain because I like it.
Lex Pelger That’s good. Speaking of looking at what’s actually out there for real people; you did work looking at the National Institute for Drug Abuse, the cannabis that they produce at the University of Mississippi and compared it to the commercially available cannabis out there. What did you find?
Dr. Anna Schwabe The product coming from the National Institute on Drug Abuse [NIDA] is not genetically close to what is available to general consumers in the dispensary. It’s actually closer, genetically, to wild-growing hemp and cultivated hemp. So, I went and collected hemp samples from herbaria. Things from 1976, things from 1969, things from last year—ditch weed growing wherever… I also had some very nice hemp farmers who sent me samples… The closest relative in my sampling set was a wild-collected hemp—we assume it’s hemp—from 1969.
Lex Pelger That’s good. Speaking of looking at what’s actually out there for real people; you did work looking at the National Institute for Drug Abuse, the cannabis that they produce at the University of Mississippi and compared it to the commercially available cannabis out there. What did you find?
Dr. Anna Schwabe The product coming from the National Institute on Drug Abuse [NIDA] is not genetically close to what is available to general consumers in the dispensary. It’s actually closer, genetically, to wild growing hemp and cultivated hemp. So, I went and collected hemp samples from herbaria. Things from 1976, things from 1969, things from last year—ditch weed growing wherever… I also had some very nice hemp farmers who sent me samples and said, “here, this is industrial hemp…” The closest relative in my sampling set was a wild-collected hemp—we assume it’s hemp—from 1969.
Lex Pelger Wow. So, they’re basically growing hemp ditch weed… for patients.
Dr. Anna Schwabe There’s lots of ways this signal could’ve… The hemp plants that I have, have a very strong single genetic signal. The samples from NIDA have that same strong genetic signal. Now, they’re growing outdoors in Mississippi. Somebody pointed out to me that they also grow hemp in Mississippi and hemp is a prolific pollinator. It could be that the University of Mississippi’s plants have been, over the years, heavily pollinated by outdoor grows and now what they have is hemp.
Lex Pelger Wow.
Dr. Anna Schwabe Without genetic tests, you wouldn’t really think about that and you wouldn’t really know about that. The other thing is that, maybe back in the ‘60s and ‘70s all of these plants were much closely, genetically related before everything went underground for a long time. It could be it’s just really, super inbred and it doesn’t have a signal that’s the same as anything else. There’s a lot of different reasons why we could be seeing this. But without talking to them and getting answers from them I don’t really-t’s all just guesses… But it’s definitely not anything like what you or I would be able to put our hands on and use for medicine. So, I feel like a lot of the studies are just inherently flawed just because they’re not what people are saying… if somebody says, “I use this and It’s awesome. It gets rid of my headache.” Then NIDA says, “Well, we’ve tested it, and it doesn’t.” It’s because you’re using something totally different.
Lex Pelger Is it difficult to sometimes see the lack of precision out there from what’s being called various strains of cannabis and what’s being given by the federal government? With it being such a complicated plant, what’s it like for you trying to tease out all of these different variables that are in each individual?
Dr. Anna Schwabe It doesn’t affect me personally. All of my projects… I don’t do hypotheses. I don’t say, “Well, I think this is what’s happening,” and then test my hypothesis. I feel like that kind of sciences makes you biased from the gate. So, I literally went into this not having any idea of where… I figured hemp would have its own signal because other people have looked at it, too. Hemp is pretty distinguishable from any of the drug types. I didn’t now where my high-CBD strains would fall. I assumed somewhere between the drug types and the hemp types, which they did, so that was nice. The NIDA stuff, we just had no idea what would happen with that. We [thought], “We’ll let’s just see who wants to hang out with, genetically…” The markers that we use are not, as I said, they’re not expressing genes. They’re the neutral markers so, it gives a good idea of evolutionary history… It was just interesting to see. I wouldn’t say it’s frustrating. But it also gives validity to all of these claims from people who have said, “Things are different when I get it from different dispensaries. Why is that?” Well, I answered that question. They are different. Why? We don’t know. But now people can see all of these different places where variation could’ve happened. It could be the seed company. It could’ve been the clone. It could’ve been that George didn’t actually know that he didn’t have Blue Dream, that he had something else. Now we can start to move towards checking some of these things. “Do I have Blue Dream?” I can say, “Yes, you have Blue Dream” or “No, you don’t.” I can’t tell you what you do have. If you think you have Blue Dream, you bring it to me, I test it and I say, “That’s definitely not Blue Dream.” And they say, “What is it?” I’ll [reply], “I don’t know. What do you want to call it?” What I want to do with all this stuff is just open people’s eyes. That it’s not as well-regulated as… pharma industry. It should be dialed in a little more than it is. I’m not saying that we need to put all these restrictions and standards… but people should know what’s actually going on. That there’s a possibility that you’ll get something different until we figure it out.
Lex Pelger That’s actually a favorite question I like to ask. If we could put you in charge of some of the laws regulating dispensaries, what would you put in place that’s some of the most important for accuracy and consumer knowledge.
Dr. Anna Schwabe I’ve thought a lot about this question, and I don’t think it’s fair to ask everybody to have their plants genotyped. If you want to come up with a brand-new strain and call it, “The Cloud”, go ahead and do that. That’s fine. But what I can see happening is something like the vitamin industry. You could walk into the store, there’s hundreds of different kinds of vitamins, from all these different manufacturers. Some of them have a certified stamp on them that say, “this has been tested rigorously through this company. When you buy this bottle of Vitamin C, you’ll know what you’re getting.” Whereas if you buy the off-brand, hasn’t been certified, doesn’t have any testing information; you can buy that if you wanted to, and there’s no reason why you shouldn’t. But it’s not certified. If you’re a medical patient, let’s say… if you can go somewhere and somebody is certified, “yes, this is blue dream,” then maybe that’s for you. If you’re just a recreational consumer out to test all the different things, then it doesn’t matter that it’s certified or not. You’re just going out and seeing what you like. I can see it going that way.
Lex Pelger That’s great. Two different levels. A bottom shelf and a top shelf.
Dr. Anna Schwabe Yeah and depending on what you’re looking for, if you don’t mind a little surprise here and there, then you don’t need to buy the certified stuff.
Lex Pelger Speaking of finding stuff that you like; you’ve also presented on olfaction, on smelling and cannabis strains. Can you talk more about that work?
Dr. Anna Schwabe After I did the first variation within strain study, I was contacted by Avery Gilbert, who is a scent scientist… This is his jam and he just recently put out a couple of papers on cannabis. But as soon as he contacted me, I [thought], “I totally know where you’re going with this.” Because I can tell if things are identical genetically, but does that mean that the phenotype is identical? A perfect way to test that is smell. Testing terpenes can get pricey. But, give somebody a $5 gift card to Starbucks® to smell some weed and they’ll do it. So, that’s what we did. I genotyped some of the most common strains [and] found genetic identical samples… It was a double blind-study, so I knew what the samples were, but Avery didn’t and neither did the participants. [The samples] were all in little jars with a number on it. Basically, [Avery] would give [the participant] a jar, they would smell it, and they would do a ‘check all that apply survey’ on an iPad. There were 40 different odor descriptors. Everything from coffee to skunk to bleu cheese, diesel, chemical, flower, all kinds of herbal smells. If they smelled 20 of them, then they checked 20 of them. If all they smelled was skunk, then that’s what they checked. What we found was—In each lot, I had a minimum of three samples that were genetically identical and one that was genetically very different but had the same name. In Mob Boss and Blue Dream, the one that was genetically different definitely smelled different than the other ones. Durban Poison was all over the place even though all three of them were genetically identical. OG Kush, the outlier–the genetic outlier–definitely smelled different and had a distinct cheese aroma, which people picked up on more than is normal… It was really interesting. So, yes, people could pick up the genetic outlier probably because it wasn’t what it was labeled as. It was something different. But as far as being… [able to] identify what Sour Diesel is by its smell; the variation in the scents were all over the place. I don’t know that many people with that special sense. I’m sure maybe there are some people out there. As far as identifying what kind of strain it is by the smell, I’m not sure people can do that. But they can definitely tell the difference between things. That was a fun study.
Lex Pelger The nose knows… The last thing I actually wanted to ask about was your work with illustrations and how you got into that.
Dr. Anna Schwabe I’ve been at UNC—I have three degrees from here now. My bachelor’s, my master’s, and now my Ph.D. When I was doing my bachelor’s… This is going to be a long story, but it’s a good one. I had to take an upper level biology class in order to graduate on time. I really wanted to take animal behavior, but it was full. They wouldn’t override anybody into it and the only other class that was available was plant systematics. I did not want to take that class at all. [I thought,] “plants are stupid. Why do I have to do this?” But if I wanted to graduate on time, I had to take this class. It was the first class that this brand-new professor, that was totally green to UNC was teaching and it was… my advisor. He made it really exciting and he gave us a list of a hundred must-know plants. Then we had an assignment. We had to go out and collect 20 things that were not on the must know list, which irked me because I was [thinking]… “There [are] no more plants. Where are we going to find 20 more plants that aren’t on this stupid list?” I just seriously had no idea about plants. As part of that assignment, when we turned in our 20 plants—I think I had duplicates in there because I really couldn’t find that many plants… we had to identify it, we had to key it out in one of those field books. We had to do an herbarium label… write where it came from, who collected it, the date, any pertinent information. We also had to do a sketch of the plant. When I turned my assignment in, [my advisor] said, “You’re really good at drawing. You should go and check out the botanical illustration classes that they do at the botanic gardens.” I [replied,] “Yeah, that sounds like fun. I could take a class or two.” It’s a little bit more intense than that. It turns out it’s a whole other degree. You have to take 13 core classes and then 100 hours of electives to get certified in botanical illustration through the Denver Botanic Garden School of Botanical Illustration. So, in between my bachelor’s and my master’s I just did that. That’s how I got started on that. I have a website that has some of the stuff that I’ve done, and I’ve done commissions before, but I don’t really do it very often. It’s usually if somebody commissions me or will pay me to do it then I’ll draw something, but… it’s not my favorite [pastime]. I don’t sit out in the garden and draw… but that’s how I got started with that.
Lex Pelger That’s great. Because it’s really very classic and elegant work but you’re also putting a new take on it. I like scientific illustrations and yours really stand out… And actually, the very last question I feel like I should ask… Could I ask about your tattoo and the molecules on it?
Dr. Anna Schwabe These are my study species. I have one on each shoulder. This is my sclerocactus, which was my master’s. On this side, this was drawn by a friend of mine. He didn’t draw it for me. He just drew it and used it as his logo and I [said,] “I want that tattooed on me.” He [said,] “Yeah, okay. Here’s the PDF file. You can take it to your tattoo artist.” It’s a THC molecule and upside down is the CBD molecule and in between is this… twisted ladder that kind of looks like DNA. It’s kind of like a yin and a yang with the DNA and the THC and the CBD… it’s cool. If you don’t know anything about THC or CBD, you would never know what the molecule is. It could be dopamine and serotonin for all anybody knows. But it’s THC and CBD. I didn’t want to get a pot leaf because that so tacky.
Lex Pelger Molecules are classy.
Dr. Anna Schwabe Tiny molecules.
Lex Pelger Well, doctor, thank you so much for your time and for your research. It’s been really enjoyable.
Dr. Anna Schwabe Yeah, I’ve really enjoyed doing it and I really hope that I can keep answering people’s questions. As I’ve said to you before, we’re not doing science for ourselves. It’s not because of all the money we get because we don’t get any money. We’re doing this for you. When you have a question and you want it answered, the perfect person to do that is a scientist. I feel like I’m doing the science that I do for the people. I hope to keep doing it, keeping it real and bringing it back to you.
Lex Pelger Well thank you for sharing and thank you for your work.
Dr. Anna Schwabe Sure. Thank you.
Lex Pelger Thanks for tuning in. To listen to other episodes, find us at PlusCBDoil.com/lexfiles. If you have any questions, compliments, or suggestions, feel free to write me at email@example.com. If you enjoyed this program, please rate us on iTunes and share a link to your social media. It means a lot to us. The Lex Files is produced by Matt Payne. Our chief advisor is Amabelle Dela Cruz. The music is by Jake Bradford Sharp, our sponsor is CV Sciences, maker of America’s favorite CBD Oil, and remember the coupon code LEXFILES. I’m Lex Pelger, signing off.